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Thursday 11 November 2021

‘Missing’ by Erin Kinsley

Published by Headline,
19 August 202I.
ISBN: 978-1-4722-8095-4 (PB)

Some crime novels are exactly that: a crime is or has been committed, and a detective or an amateur sleuth sets out to solve it. Others have an extra dimension; there's a mystery to solve, but just as important is the way it affects the lives of the protagonists. Erin Kinsley's third psychological thriller falls squarely into the second category and is as much about the nature of family as about solving a crime.

Marietta left home to go travelling a long time ago, and is unprepared for her sister Lily's phone call demanding that she travel thousands of miles to help deal with their mother's sudden and not fully explained death in their home town. Meanwhile, DI Russell Fox, investigating cold cases as retirement approaches, has been obsessed with the horrific death of Baby Michael for two decades. The two plotlines are interwoven, though at first there seems to be no connection. It's a measure of Kinsley's skill as a storyteller that we never lose track of either, and both are equally intriguing.

Both threads are full of atmosphere. The homely, slightly old-fashioned seaside town where Marietta and Lily grew up; the remote, almost bleak location of the farm where Baby Michael's body was found all those years ago; the run-down Portakabin Fox and his sidekick Lianne Budd have been consigned to; the sophisticated art gallery where the two storylines begin to collide: all these and more come to almost tactile life. 

The characters, too, are three-dimensional and real. All the leading players have their foibles and vulnerabilities. Fox is lonely, and work has become his life; Marietta's itchy feet have carried her away from genuine relationships with other people; Lily's tragic longing for a child taints every part of her life with sadness. The supporting cast members also have their stories, contented or sad, light or dark, always as richly drawn as those of the main protagonists. As the two narrative threads become entangled, it's inevitable that uncomfortable secrets will come to the surface, and lives are set to change as a consequence. But the underlying message is that not all change is bad, even when tragedy is its cause.

Genre fiction is often dismissed as second-rate compared with its 'literary' cousin, but there's nothing second-rate about Missing. Erin Kinsley has produced an accomplished novel by any standards: rich, thoughtful and highly readable.

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Erin Kinsley is a full-time writer. She grew up in Yorkshire and currently lives in East Anglia.

Lynne Patrick  has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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